Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bede's Advice

Female Sparrow, England, image diliff, cc

Bede’s Advice


"O’ King,

It seems to me

The life of man on earth

Is short and swift

Like the flight of the sparrow

In the darkest winter

That flies through the room wherein you sit at supper,

With your earlmen and thegns,

As the fire blazes in your midst,

As the meadhall is warmed,

As drinks are raised about

In salute of your wealth and health

As the wintry storms of snow rage about. 

The tiny sparrow, black and brown, grey and white

Unarmed except for wings

And a chest to boast its prowess

With feathers loosely fitting

As if it forgot to tuck in his shirt

As indescript as the twigs

With which it makes its house

As grimy as the dirt wherein it finds its food

The life of man, O’ King, is short

As this tiny sparrow, who

Flying in the door at once is quickly out the window

O’ King,

While within he’s safe

From the wintry tempest,

From his kith and kin who plot,

From his neighbors who covet his lot,

And would steal his kingdom

So, this life, O’ King, of ours,

Appears for a little while

And what may follow or went before

Is uncertain

[Note. This poem is based a passage from Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, Chapter XIII, (Bede c. 673-735). The pagan King Edwin of Northumberland wishing to marry a Christian princess was told he must convert. He assembled his advisors and, after listening to the Christian Paulinus, one of Edwin's advisors recited the parable of the sparrow, concluding that if this new Christian teaching brings knowledge more certain, it seems right that the king should follow it.]

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